Saturday, December 30, 2017

It's Bizarre, But Let's Be Thankful for Trump

It’s end of the year time when journalists reflect on the last 12 months, a time to give thanks, or note regrets, for all that has transpired since the ball dropped on Times Square (here’s as good example as any of the recap genre:

First and foremost, let’s be thankful Donald Trump was elected. WHAT, you say!?! Hear me out …

Had Hillary Clinton won residency in the White House, no doubt we would be months into pending impeachment proceedings as Republicans would be like a dog chewing on a bone. If you thought their nonstop investigations of Benghazi and her emails while she was merely a candidate were over the top, imagine for a moment what they would have been like had she coupled her popular vote win with an Electoral College victory. 

The impeachment proceedings anti-Trumpers have been longing for would be a reality had Clinton won, not that I believe anything she did deserved such action, but impeachment is a political, not legal, affair and it is evident Republicans think political profit is more important than adherence to principle and the welfare of the country. 

Moreover, assuming the #MeToo movement would have occurred, as well, Bill Clinton’s past would have been dredged up again, further tainting and weakening a Clinton presidency.

Bottom line: Hillary would be spending too much energy and time defending herself and Bill against a Republican controlled Congress. 

Counterbalancing that sad prospect would be Clinton’s more humane stewardship of our legacy. She would not have appointed unqualified or conservatively biased cabinet and agency heads or judges with extreme, reactionary opinions or who lack qualifications for life-tenured office. She would not have alienated our international allies.

But she lost. We have to deal with the reality of a Republican president. So we are left with being thankful for The Donald. You have to admit. He has been entertaining, by himself and with the aid of inept acolytes like Sean Spicer and Anthony Scaramucci. And by the daily ripostes of late night comedians.

Some context is in order. Having the blowhard-in-chief in the White House is preferable to any other Republican, even the warm-and-fuzzy-on-the-outside John Kasich. Trump has done what virtually any Republican would have. Indeed, someone with more Washington insider experience might have been more accomplished. The saving grace during this Year of Living Dangerously is that Trump has kept the intense dislike of his actions and policies red hot, thus igniting the potential for Democrats to have a chance to take over one or both houses of Congress next November. 

Trump galvanizes opposition. He will not change. Given enough rope Trump will hang himself. He cannot contain his toxic tweets and outlandish comments and actions which will inspire anti-Trump votes. They will energize Democrats and revolted true Republicans/Conservatives to show up at the polls next November in numbers generally reserved for presidential elections. 

It’s a long game, I know. Darkness has descended on the “city upon a hill,” Pilgrim John Winthrop’s Biblical visualization of a free society. But it is a game worth playing. And, for now, it is the only game in town.

Here’s hoping 2018 will be a healthy and happy one for all. Gilda and I will be spending New Year’s Eve attending the wedding of our dear friends Beth and Lloyd’s daughter Marin to Eric. A perfect way to end and start a year. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Catching Up On the News: Playing Trump, English Corn, Christmas Lights, Mall Stores

Not sure how many of you read the business pages of your newspaper but there’s a lesson to be gleaned from an article in Tuesday’s New York Times Business Day section: It pays to look beyond the public announcements and hoopla for the real reason why companies take action and the resulting impact.

Case in point, according to The Times, is the intriguing reason Broadcom, a semiconductor maker, announced last month it would move its headquarters from Singapore back to the United States. Donald Trump hailed it as another example of his ability to lure companies to return to America, thereby increasing domestic jobs. 

But after looking behind the PR wall, The Times reported Broadcom’s real reason for the move was to remove an obstacle it might have faced as a foreign-based company in its hostile pursuit of Qualcomm, a major chip manufacturer. Moreover, if the takeover were successful, it would be likely that the net U.S. employment level of the combined companies would be lower than current figures by perhaps as many as 5,400 workers. 

One wonders if Trump has any idea of how he is being played by savvier business executives.

Ears of Corn: As a former editor I like nothing more than finding inconsistencies (okay, mistakes) in texts or film/TV show dialogues. So I immediately stopped my viewing of the first episode of the new season of Vikings when I heard Bishop Heahmund of England pray for vengeance against the invading Norsemen that included “slaughter them in battle, cut them down like ears of corn at harvest.” 

That last sentiment would have been a neat feat considering that the time period portrayed in the show was the fourth decade of the ninth century—corn was not known in Europe until after the New World was discovered more than 650 years later!

Christmas lights:  Does anyone else see the irony of the inept New York City Times Square subway bomber using Christmas lights to detonate his pipe bomb? 

You would think a devout Muslim would not risk the success of his venture on infidel-inspired holiday lights. Or perhaps he was hoping the lights would be a reversal of the peace on earth message extolled by Christmas. 

At any rate, one would think a lesson learned is not to trust the quality of Made in China products.

Souie: When I read Trump’s tweet about Senator Kirsten Gillibrand I immediately thought, “What a pig Trump is.” 

In case you didn’t see it, you might appreciate the response from USA Today which begins with the following statement:

“A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush.” Click on the link for the full editorial:

Mall Stores Ban Moore: Among comments to The Times article on the selection of Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore as Alabama’s U.S. Senate replacement for Jeff Sessions was one Gilda noted for me from nilootero: “Evidently, black lives, and black votes, really do matter.”

In voting for Jones, Alabamans rejected his opponent whose resume includes the fact he was banned from a mall. Take a moment to view Seth Meyers’ mall store sendup of Moore’s failed candidacy (it begins around 46 seconds into the accompanying clip:

Monday, December 11, 2017

Economy, Not #MeToo, Will Decide 2018 & 2020

As much as it pains and disgusts me to acknowledge it, the elections of 2018 and 2020 will not be tipped by the revulsion to sexual predators generated by the #MeToo movement. To be sure, the reaction to sexual harassment will introduce the electorate to more female candidates, but their success will largely depend on the state of the economy of the individual household rather than on the abstract level of the stock market or the unemployment rate, the latter superceded by the growth, decline or stagnation in real wages, the former being mostly a measure important to those lucky enough to have a retirement fund linked to Wall Street investments.

As I write this, it is less than 24 hours from the verdict Alabama voters will provide on whether their state has the backward values ascribed to them by Eastern and Western establishment liberals by voting in an alleged pedophile as their next junior U.S. senator, or if they will provide a solid rebuke to an administration and Republican Party that has abandoned principle in favor of grabbing power for power’s sake. 

Donald Trump is taking a victory lap for the state of the economy during his first year in office. Too bad he is dissembling and claiming credit for a recovering economy Barack Obama set in motion.

It is generally recognized that the economy during the first year of a new presidency is reflective of the prior administration’s handling of fiscal matters. Obama, for example, had to deal with the recession he inherited from George W. Bush. Unemployment kept rising during his first year as president. But the last seven years of his presidency saw economic growth, which has continued into the first year of Trump.

Trump can aptly claim a reduced regulatory environment as his cabinet and agency heads dismantle protections. Wall Street, which cares not about the long term impact of fewer immigrants to fuel farms, manufacturing and high-tech industries, and is indifferent to lower environmental and worker protections, is at an all-time high. 

But the true test of Trump’s reforms will come later, as most voters will find their taxes are not lower, especially compared to the whopping reductions the super rich will receive. Their real income will not go up, as business leaders will not flow their companies’ reduced taxes into higher wages. And industries Trump said would rebound, such as coal and construction, will not bounce back. 

The other day the Associated Press fact-checked Trump’s claims during a stump speech in Florida. His dissembling is historic.

The ironic thing is that Trump blasts the media when mistakes are made. He is right to demand accuracy. But he wants reporters who make mistakes to be fired. Imagine if he abided by his own standard. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Time for a Few Good Reads

Today’s a day for some interesting reads. 

Donald Trump made himself into a champion of the coal industry. But his proposed tax reform bill might have a devastating impact on the fossil fuel segment, according to a coal company executive who has been one of his biggest supporters: 

There is a romantic view we have of America before World War II. The 1930s was a time of Andy Hardy movies depicting idyllic life in small towns. Racism and anti-Semitism were never mentioned. Shirley Temple could dance up and down a grand staircase with Bojangles. The Marx Brothers were zany. 

Across the Atlantic, however, America was seen as a template for what turned out to be the greatest evil the world has seen. Hitler and his henchmen fashioned their repressive society on American laws:  

Just as neo-Nazis have resurrected the culture of oppression, the Ku Klux Klan has experienced its own reincarnation, twice in fact, as described by this book review:

As Republicans in Congress push federal legislation to allow concealed weapons to be carried legally across state lines, thereby undermining the state’s rights issue they have long championed, here’s a graphic that puts in context the carnage wrought by our inadequate gun control laws: 
Not every conservative shares the xenophobic attitudes of Trump and his ignorant supporters. Consider Bret Stephens. From a speech he recently delivered on “American Greatness,” here are some facts about immigration into the United States: 

“Did you know that immigrants account for 35 percent of all U.S. Nobel Prize winners? Did you know that 83 percent of the finalists in the 2016 Intel Science Talent search—widely known as the junior Nobel—are the children of immigrants? Did you know that 40 percent of all Fortune 500 companies—accounting for $4.8 trillion in revenues and 19 million employees—had founders who were immigrants or the children of immigrants? Did you know that immigrants start businesses at about twice the rate of other Americans? Did you know that without immigrants we would have had no population growth whatsoever since 1970, putting us on a path to a Japanese-style demographic death spiral?

“It is, of course, true that immigrants put strains on their host societies. It is also true that in any immigrant population there will be thieves, rapists, killers, scallywags and layabouts—though, by the way, did you also know that the incarceration rate of illegal immigrants is nearly half that of U.S. citizens?” (For a full read of his remarks, click

As the Supreme Court mulls whether a Colorado baker can withhold his services from a gay couple seeking a wedding cake, it might be illuminating to think about what our world would be like without the contributions of confirmed, not rumored, famous people who were or are gay, lesbian or bisexual, according to Wikipedia. Here’s a partial alphabetical list:,_lesbian_or_bisexual_people:_A

Hypocrisy in Action: My friend Arthur sent along a cartoon (which I can’t reproduce because of my limited tech capabilities). The illustration shows 10 Republican senators sitting at a conference table. The chairman says, “Before we discuss raising taxes on the poor & middle class, adding $1 trillion to the deficit, taking health insurance away from 13 million, raising premiums by 10%, defending treason and swearing in a pedophile, let’s begin with a prayer.”

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Art of the Mis-Deal, A Senate Quid Pro Quo, Media Values and Lessons from Frederick

The Art of the Mis-Deal: What a thoughtful Christmas gift Donald Trump gave the world: Turmoil in the Middle East and anywhere else Islamic extremists operate. I do not envy pilgrims to Bethlehem during this holiday season, or tourists walking the maze-like corridors of the Old City of Jerusalem. Nor did the tumulter-in-chief do any favors to Jews the world over by sanctifying Jerusalem as Israel’s capital Wednesday. Jews already considered Jerusalem that way, but by caring more for fulfilling a campaign pledge to evangelical Christians than the safety of Israelis and Americans traveling abroad and here in the United States, the provocateur-in-chief has imperiled any hope for a substantive restart of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for a two-state solution. 

Maybe that was his intention all along, a stealth strategy in support of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lip service endorsement of a two-state plan while all along enacting and enabling actions that undermine such a solution ever having viability.

Let’s not mince words—Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Judaism. But under Netanyahu’s capitulation to ultra-Orthodox political parties the city has lost much of its religious appeal to Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews who are accorded second class status there. 

Trump cared not what leaders around the world cautioned him not to do. It is not too outlandish to presume that if he does not see positive movement by Palestinians toward the negotiating table Trump will radicalize them even more by first recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital, followed by a declaration that the entire West Bank captured in the Six Day War is to be considered part of Israel.

Here’s a Trade—Al for Roy: Is it too outlandish to ask the U.S. Senate to operate under a quid pro quo system? If Democrats require Al Franken to resign because of alleged sexual harassments, Roy Moore should, in turn, be denied the seat he covets from Alabama. Such a tit-for-tat arrangement would not upset the balance of power as Franken would be replaced by a Democrat appointed by the Democratic governor of Minnesota and Moore (assuming he wins next week’s special election) would be replaced by a Republican chosen by a Republican governor.

Here’s a message my friend Linda sent along that bears consideration:

“Seriously! If baking a cake for a gay wedding is endorsing homosexuality, then voting for a pedophile is endorsing pedophilia.” 

Now that the twitter-in-chief was not named Person of the Year by Time, how long before he tweets an attack on the magazine and the women it recognized for their courage in speaking out against harassment?

If you’re an All in the Family fan, you might remember a Christmastime episode about a vacuum cleaner present Edith Bunker did not receive from Archie. The poor fellow had to fess up that the Christmas bonus money he would have used to buy the vacuum was docked because of a shipping mistake he made at work. He sent a package to London, England, instead of London, Ontario. 

I was reminded of that faux pas by the recent mistake ABC News chief investigative reporter Brian Ross made that earned him a four week suspension without pay. Ross had erroneously reported “candidate” Trump had asked Michael Flynn to contact Russians. He corrected his report to say “president-elect” Trump had made the request (

It was a big mistake, made all the more grievous by the extraordinary times we live in, when a president and his surrogates berate legitimate news media for delivering “fake news” and when a president and his surrogates repeatedly lie to the public. 

Mistakes in reporting happen. That’s why newspapers and magazines, and electronic media, print or air corrections. No one is infallible. But the Ross snafu transpired during a time when the credibility of the media has taken some extraordinary hits, not because of errors in reporting but rather because of character flaws. 

Charlie Rose. Matt Lauer. Roger Ailes. Bill O’Reilly. Glenn Thrush. Eric Bolling. Bob Beckel. The list of prominent journalists and TV hosts accused of sexual or racial improprieties undermines the credibility of the fourth estate at a juncture in our nation’s history when the value of a free, independent and credible press cannot be overestimated.

Frederick the Great: One of the favorite books Gilda and I read to our children and now to their children is Frederick by Leo Lionni. While his four fellow field mice gather food for the coming winter, Frederick spends his days seemingly shirking any communal responsibilities. He sits on rocks admiring flowers. He absorbs the warmth of the sun as the other mice scurry about collecting grain and tasty foodstuffs for the desolate months ahead.

The other mice chastise him for not collecting winter provisions. To which Frederick responds he is indeed doing his fair share. He is collecting sun rays for the cold, dark winter days, colors for winter is grey, and words for winter days are long and many.

Inside their home once winter arrives the mice munch away until they are almost out of food. They ask  Frederick to talk about his supplies. His words warm them with memories of summer days. 

Frederick is a charming book with a strong message that work is not just physical labor, that poetry, appreciation of nature and the transmission of culture are just as  important to sustain life. (For those not familiar with Frederick, click on this link for an animated reading: 

I was reminded of Frederick’s message by Trump’s decision Monday to reduce by millions of square feet the footprints of two national monuments in Utah. Ostensibly a move to give local officials more control over land in their backyard, Trump’s action was portrayed as a job creator as it will open the areas to drilling, mining and other activities. 

Coupled with antipathy for funding for the arts and other cultural programs, Trump and his acolytes demonstrate a philosophy that focuses solely on the muscular. Even in his dedication to jobs, Trump supports fossil fuels versus clean energy alternatives, despite the fact that more workers are employed in the solar power segment than in coal mining. 

I wonder if Trump reads books to his grandchildren. I wonder if he ever gets the messages behind those books.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Thoughts on Sexual Harassment and Racial Discrimination

If you believe in god, and perhaps even if you don’t, there are one of two prayers you are most likely reciting daily. If you trust in Donald Trump, you are praying the domino scandal of inappropriate male sexual behavior engulfs special counsel Robert Mueller before he uncovers any evidence of illegality involving The Donald. If your decency index swings the other way, you are hoping beyond prayers that Mueller has no sexual indiscretions in his closet.

Oh, how our stature as a country with morals and integrity has fallen in the last 24 months. To be sure, we always have had leaders with outsized egos and even larger libidos. Mostly, their sexual peccadillos were kept under wraps until their respective infidelities were exposed, as happened when House Ways and Means chairman Wilbur Mills drove his mistress Fanne Fox into the Washington Tidal Basin in 1974. The dalliances of FDR, JFK even Ike came to light only after they no longer graced the earth.

No less a family values proponent than Ronald Reagan managed to project wholesomeness despite divorcing his first wife and later marrying Nancy, whom he had impregnated before they exchanged their vows.

Would Bill Clinton get elected today if we knew of his indiscretions? Perhaps, for after all, we did know of them but chose not to believe his accusers. Similar revolting behavior did not stop evangelical communities from voting for Trump. And many in Alabama seem poised to accept a flawed sexual predator as their next senator, especially now that the predator-in-chief has endorsed him, as has the Republican National Committee. They believe being a Democrat is more evil than any other sin.

Hollywood Casting: When they make a movie of Hollywood’s, the media’s and Washington’s continual fall from social grace (get real people, it is only a matter of time until the film starts rolling), here’s the perfect actor for the role of the corpulent predator at the heart of sexual scandaldom: Jeff Garlin should play Harvey Weinstein.

For those who don’t immediately recognize Garlin’s name, he plays Murray Goldberg on ABC’s The Goldbergs. But that traditional sitcom portrayal is not why he would make the perfect Harvey Weinstein.

It is his role as Jeff Greene, Larry David’s lascivious, scruples-be-damned agent and co-conspirator-in-mischief on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm that earns him his Weinstein creds. Not to mention his girth and no neck physical resemblance. Put a few days’ scruffy growth on his face and he’s camera ready.

With apologies if any of my projected cast for the Weinstein-inspired sexual harassment flick fall victim—that is, are exposed as a sexual aggressor—before filming can begin, here’s a lineup of players for the depraved:

Jeff Garlin as Harvey Weinstein
Frank Langella as Roy Moore
Christopher Plummer as Charlie Rose
George Wendt (Norm from Cheers) as Al Franken
Leonardo DiCaprio as Kevin Spacey
Tom Hardy as Matt Lauer
James Belushi as Bill O’Reilly
Paul Giamatti as Roger Ailes
Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump
J.B. Smoove (from Curb Your Enthusiasm) as John Conyers
Austin Pendleton as Woody Allen
Macaulay Culkin as Ronan Farrow
John Lithgow as Louis C.K.
Rainn Wilson as Garrison Keillor
Dana Carvey as George H.W. Bush
Ed Asner as James Levine
Kenan Thompson as Clarence Thomas
Larry Fishburne as Bill Cosby
Jimmy Kimmel as Roy Moore

Unfortunately, there no doubt are many more, known and unknown at this time, to be cast. As for the courageous women coming forward to reveal the sexual harassment they endured, they should play themselves so they could at least reap some compensation for their collective trauma.

Happy Out, Angry In: I happily traveled with Gilda down to Washington, DC, to spend Thanksgiving with my brother and his family. I came back angry.

Fear not. There was no family squabble. No real life representation of countless movie or TV family meals turned into shouting matches.

Rather, my anger stemmed from a visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. It was among the most moving, enlightening, and educational exhibits I have witnessed. It should be required viewing by all politicians and corporate leaders. 

Anyone who takes the time—half a dozen hours, as we spent the day before Thanksgiving, does not complete the experience—will come away with a deeper understanding of the contributions Afro-Americans have made to our country during their years of bondage, repression under Jim Crow laws, and the current contradictory phase of presumed equality masked by racial discrimination.  

I exited the museum angry that anyone could deny the righteousness of the fight for equality. That anyone could support laws that perpetuate inequality. That anyone could   work to suppress voting rights. 

I wondered what Trump took away from his visit last February to the museum, given the minimal time his schedule would have permitted him to spend there. I wondered if he was intelligent and curious enough to go back after hours for a longer, deeper dive into the history and culture displayed there. He did, after all, say he wanted to return for a more comprehensive visit. 

Based on how he has addressed issues affecting minority communities, from voting rights to programs to help the disadvantaged, I surmise he has not followed through. In his own favorite word, sad.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Will Greed Trump Our National Values?

How far can greed take you?

Are you willing to give up truth?

Are you willing to give up compassion and aid to the needy and infirm?

Are you willing to stoke bigotry?

Are you willing to weaken the foundations of government?

Are you willing to disengage from international protocols?

Are you willing to abandon decency?

Are you willing to forego civic and social values?

Are you willing to live with fewer environmental protections, with fewer consumer financial protections, with fewer worker protections, with fewer food and drug safety protections, with fewer civil rights for all?

Are you willing to live with brinksmanship rather than diplomacy?

Are you willing to discard the promise of the Statue of Liberty, willing to extinguish its beacon of opportunity extended to all who yearn “to breathe free”?

These are all relevant questions in the Age of Trump.

Lest we forget, Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992 set the template with its sharply pronounced slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Under Trump the stock market keeps going in the direction set by Barack Obama—up.  Consumer confidence has skyrocketed. Unemployment remains low. Productivity is above 3% two quarters in a row. 

People, especially the rich, are feeling flush. You might say even greedy. They want “more.” 

But at what cost to our national id? 

Can more value in our asset bank trump our national values? Can more money make us proud to be Americans at the risk of losing what it has meant to be an American? 

I surely hope not.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Existential Threats: Jihadists or Neo-Nazis?

Which form of intolerance is a greater threat to Western civilization—extremist Muslims or neo-Nazis?

I posed that question to a buddy who had sent me an article by Giulio Meotti, cultural editor for Il Foglio, posted by Gatestone Institute, an international policy council chaired by John Bolton, former U.N. ambassador, the gist of which argued that Western civilization is endangered by jihadists, much as Eastern Christianity (in Arab lands) has been “extinguished” by them.  

My friend, a former elementary and high school classmate who is a retired U.S. foreign service officer, replied, “Intolerance is not the issue; the issue is how many innocent civilians have died world-wide traced to Salafist ideology.

“I served for 8 years at the U.S. Special Operations Command on Macdill Air Force Base, under Bush 43 and Obama. The Command categorized U.S. homegrown political extremes, from both the right and left, as the responsibility of Homeland Security and the FBI.  We never viewed Occupy Wall Street or the Alex Jones/Roger Spencer acolytes as an existential threat to the homeland.

“The 24/7 focus of our ops cell was draining the ideological swamp of global Jihadism.  Open Source reference tools outline the global reach of both AQ ( al-Queda) and ISIS and their death toll.

“Yes. I am more concerned with Salafism. ADL (Anti—Defamation League) and The AJC (American Jewish Committee) have the toolbox to handle these American losers on the right. 

“Europe replaced the Jews with Muslims.... that is their problem.”

Never one to shy away from a debate, my response followed:

“I respectfully but strongly disagree. I more fear a destruction of Western democratic values than a takeover of Western governments by a segment of a religion whose vast majority have shown a desire to be part of Western society with its openness and inclusiveness. 

“Sure, you can point to the wanton killings of non Muslims, and even Muslims from the wrong sect, as proof that Islamic extremists are evil. But their killings in Europe and the United States and Canada are insignificant (except, of course, to their victims and their respective families) compared to the “sanctioned” deaths we tolerate from permissive gun laws and violations of environmental and food/drug safety laws. In one year alone the U.S. has more deaths by guns than the total Americans killed by al-Queda, ISIS and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that includes 9/11. 

“We are witnessing a resurgence of fascism and totalitarianism in Western countries. While it might be said to be ignited by the presence of Muslim immigrants, both legal and illegal, it is not the sole reason. Income inequality and the replacement of meaningful jobs by technology or outsourcing have destabilized economies. 

“Western values are being challenged by a return to tribalism. Parts of Italy and Spain seek independence. Britain has Brexit. Poland is becoming anti-Semitic again not just to Jews but first to Muslims. Then to Jews. 

“Under the guise of trying to control the spread of Islamic terrorism the West is relaxing its commitment to shared values of democracy. We are letting fear dominate our thinking. 

“I am not advocating any abandonment of the battle against Islamic extremism. Hunt them down. Do not let them acquire WMDs (weapons of mass destruction). But do not let the battle destroy our principles. No torture. To the extent possible no civilian collateral casualties. No support for despots who deny their countrymen civil liberties. 

“Radical Islam was born from the oppression Arab rulers practiced on their people with the willing consent of America and other Western powers. That fact cannot be denied. Sadly, even if the extremists were to secure their own country, as ISIS has shown, they would be equally if not more repressive and evil than the rulers they would have ousted. What is clear is that the vast majority of ordinary Muslims reject extremism. 

“To prevent radical thought from spreading in the West we need to provide a stable economic platform plus education and civil rights to all. Regrettably, some will still not accept Western civilization. They will terrorize us. But they will be no more effective than the Las Vegas shooter. Yes, they will kill an untold number of Americans but unless we capitulate they will not be able to kill off our ideals.” 

I await his reply.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mass Shootings, an Intractable Dispute and McConnell's Imprint on Our Future

From a Los Angeles Times article on the killings in Northern California Tuesday: “I thought this only happens to places like L.A. or New York,” Jose Garcia, owner of La Fortune Convenience, told the Los Angeles Times (

Now, why would he say that? In the 16 deadliest mass shootings in the United States since 1949, not one, not one!, occurred in either Los Angeles or New York City (

Sadly, mass shootings are part of Americana. They happen in schools, in churches, in McDonalds, in nightclubs, on military bases. But not in New York or Los Angeles. 

Numb. Week after week crazed men and the occasional woman perpetrate numbing acts of violence against innocents, many of whom are children. As a nation we are repulsed. But let’s put our reaction in historical perspective.

From our earliest days as colonists to European monarchs, to our formation as the United States of America, we have rarely done anything but accept, and even condone, mass killings, either on our soil or in foreign lands, by our citizens or other peoples. Consider our treatment of Native Americans. Or the death trips chained Africans endured crossing the Atlantic below decks aboard slave trading ships. Or the way we turned our backs on thousands of desperate souls fleeing Nazi Germany. Or how we mostly ignored the ethnic warfare in Rwanda and the Balkans? 

It is hard to find solace in our historical record. 

From a Sunday New York Times article on Trump administration efforts to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, here’s a quote: “After 10 months of educating themselves on the complexities of the world’s most intractable dispute, White House officials said, Mr. Trump’s team of relative newcomers to Middle East peacemaking has moved into a new phase of its venture  …” (

Now, Jews for decades have been pleased to be recognized for outstanding feats. Entertainers, scientists, Nobel Prize winners, athletes and so on, including a remarkable victory in the Six Day War, they all evoke cultural pride among the “chosen.” But there is no joy in associating Israel with “the world’s most intractable dispute.” Israel, for one, would argue it has sought peaceful co-existence from day one of its statehood in 1948 and even before. But let’s not argue that point.

I’d rather focus on the highlighted phrase. Should we not consider the friction over Kashmir between Pakistan and India, two nuclear powers, an equally, if not more, intractable, and potentially more dangerous, dispute? What about Korea? What about the Kurds wanting their own country and stifled by Iraq, Turkey and Syria? 

I’m sure there are other hotspots around the globe that could share equal billing with the Israeli-Palestinian discord, so let’s not be so quick to label any dispute the most intractable.

As long as we’re talking Israeli-Palestinian issues, earlier this month, November 2, marked the 100th anniversary of the issuance of the Balfour Declaration that stated the British government’s support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”  

Rather than go into a dissertation on the history and pros and cons of the document, let me be personal about the Balfour Declaration. Several years ago, as part of my part-time work as a real estate agent, I had the extreme good fortune of seeing a draft of the Balfour Declaration, with handwritten notations and edits, hanging in the home of a client. That was a priceless moment.

He’s the One: Stephen Bannon wants him thrown out of office, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is arguably the politico most responsible for the rightward shift America will undergo for the next several decades.

McConnell’s unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominations during the last year or more of Barack Obama’s presidency has resulted in the appointment of conservative Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and a slew of like-minded jurists to lower federal benches. These lifetime positions will set a reactionary tone for decades putting at risk hope for progressive, humane decisions that favor civil rights and individuals versus corporations and government (

The Bannon trope against McConnell is a public relations fight that obscures what is really happening in Washington. Congress may be crawling along but the real deconstruction of government is happening at the cabinet department level where regulation after regulation is being rescinded or amended to eliminate or reduce safeguards intended to protect workers, the environment and consumers.

The avuncular McConnell is a tempting target, in appearance and legislative accomplishment, but keep in mind it was his strategy that made a vote for Trump synonymous with a choice for the next Supreme Court justice. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Celebrating My Mother's Centennial Birthday

Were she still alive, my mother, Sylvia Margaret Gerson Forseter, would have turned 100 Saturday, November 11. You’ll notice I did not say she would have celebrated her centennial. It would not be incorrect nor disrespectful to say my mother never got much pleasure from turning the page on another year. As different infirmities invaded her body and mind she used to say, “Good health was wasted on the young.” 

That lack of birthday excitement, to my memory, transferred over to celebrations of her husband’s and children’s birthdays, as well, though she did enjoy the spotlight at the bar mitzvah affairs of my brother Bernie and me at the Aperion Manor on Kings Highway in Brooklyn. And she got a kick out of turning our home’s basement into a dance hall for our sister Lee’s Sweet 16 party.

Mom had a ribald sense of humor. If she saw you yawning she would say, “You wouldn’t be so tired if you slept at night instead of fooling around, but then sleep isn’t as much fun.”

On her night table at various times one could find a copy of Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Tropic of Cancer, risqué reading for the 1950s and 1960s.

Whenever a movie starring Tyrone Power was shown on television she would say, “He could park his shoes next my bed anytime” (as was the custom of the times, my parents slept in twin beds separated at first by a night table, though eventually the beds were pushed together to simulate a king size bed, albeit with a slight gap between the mattresses to accommodate their wooden frames).

Mom introduced her children to opera at the pre-Lincoln Center Metropolitan Opera House (she took me to see La Traviata and Tosca, the latter starring Renata Tebaldi and Franco Corelli—if you’re not into opera those names wouldn’t mean anything to you. But if you are an opera buff, you’d be envious).

She enjoyed musical theater. She instilled a love of that entertainment genre by taking each of her three children individually to a show each year so that each would feel special not just from the Broadway experience but also from having her solely to ourselves. 

She was, though, slightly snobbish in her reviews. One year Bernie wanted to see Flower Drum Song. But as it contained a modified strip tease scene and Bernie was just 14, she nixed his choice and took him instead to West Side Story. 

In successive years when I was 11 and 12, she took me to Camelot starring Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet, followed by Kean, a musical about the early 19th century Shakespearian actor Edmund Kean, played by one of her stage heroes, Alfred Drake. Kean garnered so-so reviews. It ran for just 92 performances. Camelot became a semi-classic, with 873 performances on Broadway before being made into a feature film. As we were leaving Kean Mom asked me which play I liked more. I replied Camelot. She did not mask her disappointment in what she considered my plebeian taste. 

Some shows commanded viewing by the whole family. After our parents saw Fiddler on the Roof with Zero Mostel, they bought tickets for Bernie, Lee and me and her older sister, Pola. During intermission between acts, Aunt Pola, who had been sitting in a different section, came by to ask how we were enjoying the show and to say she had laughed so hard during one scene she wet her panties (earthy language not being one of the restraints practiced by our mother and her three sisters). 

Before I was a teenager they took the three of us to see Milk and Honey about the early years of Israel, and Take Me Along with Jackie Gleason, Walter Pidgeon and Robert Morse, a musical adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness. 

Most every night, at 8, Mom would lie down on the living room couch to listen as WVNJ-AM aired a complete musical recording of a Broadway show. Often I would sit with her, enjoying and learning by heart the music and lyrics to scores of shows. Our stereo was stocked with dozens of original cast recordings of Broadway shows.

Those memories reflect one aspect of the vibrant mother I grew up and lived with until she was in her mid-50s and I left home for graduate school, work in Connecticut and marriage to Gilda. She was social and sociable, a gracious hostess and good cook, a theater-goer and poker player, a successful business- and clubwoman, an independent world traveler. About the only thing she could not master was driving a car. 

Much of that persona vanished in her last two decades. I won’t dwell on the reasons why or the effect on her husband, children and grandchildren. She passed away at 78 on February 16, 1996. She left a divided legacy, which is to say, she led a normal life, with ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments, passion—good and bad—toward her family. All in all, a life worth remembering.  

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Someone Get Me Rewrite!

Sometimes you need a good editor to make your writing better. I was a good editor, but it’s not easy improving your own text, ergo the thankful acknowledgment by many a revered author to his or her editor. That’s a longwinded way of saying I just realized that a cutesy paraphrase of a biblical saying included in a posting two weeks ago could have been sharpened by an editor. 

Concerning the controversy over the status of monuments to Confederate generals and soldiers, Columbus and other notables, I wrote, “In a variation on what Jesus said, let he who is without sin be memorialized with a statue.” 

Reading that line today I believe it would have been better if I had written, “In a variation on what Jesus said, let he who is without sin be cast in stone.” 

Behind the Scenes: Now that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates have been indicted in a federal probe linked to the election of Donald Trump, I was wondering, why is it that just those two were named in a scheme to launder foreign money and evade taxes? Are we to believe that Manafort and Gates had the smarts and wherewithal to hide their activities without the aid of lawyers, accountants, bankers and others, perhaps a few real estate agents, who might have provided counsel on how to circumvent without detection federal law? 

I know, you’re probably saying they were caught, so it proves, or at least strongly suggests, they acted alone. I think not. I am waiting to see who else might be entangled in their web of deceit.

Meanwhile, for an eerily revealing behind the scenes look at the dynamics of Manafort, his family, and his alliance with Trump, there’s hardly any more enlightening read than the emails his daughter, 31-year-old Andrea Manafort Shand, exchanged with friends from March through August 2016:

Kelly Turns Green, as in spoiled or rotten. There are few better feelings for a journalist than to be proven correct in an assessment of a character. I feel good that my repudiation of John F. Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff and by many accounts the White House executive looked to as ballast to Trump’s excesses, is being confirmed by Kelly’s own actions.  

Having been shown to be a dissembler of truth when it came to the controversy involving the death in Niger of Sgt. La David T. Johnson and Trump’s condolence call to his widow, Kelly’s appearance Monday night on the Laura Ingraham show on Fox News reinforced his jaundiced view of history. Asked about removing plaques of George Washington and Robert E. Lee from a church in Alexandria, Va., Kelly said,

“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man. He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

Historians have excoriated Kelly for his depiction of followers of the Confederacy and the idea that failure to compromise resulted in war. Here’s a sample: 

Let’s look at his evaluation of current loyalties, specifically his comment that “It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today.” 

Has Kelly been asleep during the repeated assault by states, almost always Republican controlled, to push back against federal laws and regulations in the interests of “states’ rights”? Individual states have fought against the legalization of abortion rights, environmental safeguards, worker benefits, national parks and monuments, voting rights, gender equality and civil rights.

Indeed, a central plank of Trumpism is a dissolution of federal power in favor of state authority. 

Retired Marine Corps general John F. Kelly may have been a solid leader of men in battle but he is a flawed advisor and gatekeeper to the equally if not more flawed leader of our country.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Four American Deaths Spark Another Controversy

They were surprised by the ferocity of the attack that claimed their lives. Questions about prior intelligence. Questions about how quickly military support could reach them. Questions about how and what the families of the fallen Americans were told.

No, I am not referring to the 2012 deaths in Benghazi of four foreign service professionals and the prolonged multiple investigations by a Republican-controlled Congress set on besmirching the integrity of Secretary of State and eventual Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

No, these deaths occurred October 4 in Niger, an African country I would venture to say perhaps one percent of Americans could locate on a map and probably fewer knew we had military personnel stationed there fighting Islamic militants.

One wonders how diligent and aggressive the still-GOP-controlled Congress will be in purusing the tragic events and pursuing accountability. We can only hope that statements about the need for committee hearings will produce more than momentary soundbites.

Into this now politically charged sadness comes White House chief of staff and retired Marine general John F. Kelly, not by his own volition but rather because of the extraordinary but now seemingly day to day bad and/or clumsy behavior of his boss, Donald Trump, who chose to politicize the conveyance of solace and a nation’s gratitude to the families of fallen soldiers. 

Kelly is a good soldier. By that I don’t mean he is a good tactician or a good leader of men. He probably is. Rather, he is a “good” soldier in the sense that no matter what his commanding officer says or does he will not disavow him. He will not criticize him. He will give him cover to continue behavior that is inappropriate. Maybe like what Quentin Tarantino just admitted to in the Harvey Weinstein scandal ( Hears evil. Sees evil but speaks no evil. Washington and Hollywood: two peas in a pod.

You don’t become a four-star general merely by way of military expertise. Politics plays a part. Schmoozing up your superiors. Making nice to elected officials. Press reports bend over backwards describing Kelly as above the political fray of instigator-in-chief Trump roiling the waters with whomever he has a beef, be it on legitimate matters of policy or personal peccadilloes transformed into public shaming and bullying. 

Throughout it all Kelly has remained steadfast. He dismisses as inaccurate reflections pictures of him pained and distraught as the fulminator-in-chief goes off on one of his tirades. He’s never considered resigning, he says.

But his defense of Trump’s conversation with the widow and family of Sergeant La David T. Johnson, killed in Niger, and his attack on a Democratic congresswoman has opened Kelly to the contentious nature of American politics. Kelly is learning that his words are subject to parsing, as well. He got caught in a big mistake when he wrongly criticized Rep. Frederica S. Wilson for taking credit for securing funding for an F.B.I. building in Miami named for fallen agents ( 

Here’s an example of what can and has gone wrong. From Thursday’s New York Times: “Peggy Noonan, a former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, said Mr. Kelly’s blunt remarks will have impact because of the stark contrast with an administration that has repeatedly lost credibility with the public.

“‘Its great power was you knew he was telling the truth, and in all specifics,’ said Ms. Noonan, a Wall Street Journal columnist. ‘Kelly comes to the podium and it was credible, and you felt a kind of relief, and respect and gratitude.’” 

I wonder what Noonan thinks now. I wonder how quickly Kelly will come to Trump’s defense the next time—and you can bet the farm there will be a next time—the provocateur-in-chief strains credulity.

My Man McCain: Let’s be grown up about this: Politicians generally are not the most upstanding, unselfish, heroic individuals. Their main pursuit in life is self aggrandizement, most visibly demonstrated by their quest for election, then reelection, through often sleazy deals with benefactors and policy positions crafted to appeal to narrow interest groups that do not necessarily have the public good as their paramount interest.

Which brings us to John McCain. He is an exasperating politician. He is a conservative Republican which implies a proclivity toward defense spending and a less than robust ratification of entitlement programs. Yet he has moments when he is downright noble and heroic.

In 2008 he rebuffed a supporter of his presidential bid after she claimed Barack Obama was not an American or a Christian, that he was “an Arab.”

“No ma’am,” McCain said. “He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”

“He is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president,” McCain said. “If I didn’t think I’d be one heck of a better President I wouldn’t be running, and that’s the point. I admire Sen. Obama and his accomplishments, I will respect him. I want everyone to be respectful, and let’s make sure we are. Because that’s the way politics should be conducted in America.”

With his last sunset visible on the horizon because of an aggressive brain cancer (the same type that felled Ted Kennedy), the 81-year-old Navy veteran, prisoner of (Vietnam) war hero, U.S. congressman and senator from Arizona and Republican presidential candidate has a biography that will fill a full page of a broadsheet newspaper. In many ways he is like Obama, “a decent person.” 

But I would be scared if he were president because for every intrepid vote to deny the elimination of Obamacare, McCain falls back into party discipline to, for example, support a budget that would reward the rich and gut assistance programs for the needy. From my perspective he keeps switching too often from occasional white hat to near constant black hat.

Tributes to McCain keep poring in. Here’s one from David Brooks in The Times ( And his speech the other night when he accepted the 2017 Liberty Medal Award from the National Constitution Center was a stinging critique of the current state of national leadership and its withdrawal from what made America great. Here’s video of his remarks:

Perhaps it would be appropriate if McCain had a one-on-one chat with Kelly. Someone, after all, needs to tell the general when it is his duty to correct his superior, even a president. For the sake of the country.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Remedy for Fake News, Parsing Opinions on Media Bias, Racism, Oppression in America, and Recognizing the Departed

Long time between posts so here’s a long (-winded) one touching on several news events since we last engaged (trust me, there’s lots here to reflect on, so please read it all):

One of my mother’s favorite sayings to expose the hypocrisy between politicians, and even her children, engaged in arguments was to liken the debate to “the pot calling the kettle black.” I am reminded of that idiom when I hear Donald Trump decry media outlets, mostly NBC lately, for what he claims are false news stories. 

School Ties I: Arthur, a classmate from elementary school through college, began a dialogue with me about the 24/7 information cycle following a CNN report that “Google and Facebook help spread bad information after Las Vegas attack.”  I agreed with the premise, adding, “Misinformation coupled with insufficient time to ponder, consider, properly analyze, digest, interpret and just plain fact check have transformed the meaning of news and the legitimacy of many news organizations.”

To which Arthur asked, “Is there a solution in a 24/7 global communication environment with rogue and non-state actors?” “Doubtful,” I replied, “though it would help if Twitter and Google and Facebook employed vetters to make sure as much as possible that misinformation is weeded out.”

“Is it realistic to expect IT Geeks to understand the professional responsibilities of the 4th estate?,” asked Arthur.

“I do not expect IT geeks to be doing the vetting. As many true journalists have lost their jobs in true media companies, perhaps Facebook et al would hire these proven fact checkers and truth tellers,” I concluded. (By coincidence, retired CBS newscaster Bob Schieffer told Stephen Colbert this week that over the last 12 years 126 newspapers have closed down. That leaves a lot of journalists out there looking for “legitimate” work.)

Meanwhile, fake news abounds.

A Bully Presidency: Teddy Roosevelt defined the term “bully pulpit,” the use of his position as president of the United States to advocate a personal agenda. Subsequent presidents have refined the practice through fireside chats broadcast on radio, press conferences, televised addresses to the nation and, currently, Twitter. The latter is not my personal preference for conducting matters of state, but I cannot fault Donald Trump for using any tool in his kit to reach his audience. 

It is the way he uses Twitter that upsets me and any other person who has reverence for the office of the presidency and how America’s stature is projected throughout the world. 

No one is going to be able to stop him from tweeting, no matter how reckless his missives are about North Korea, or how disruptive to party unity by criticizing fellow Republicans not hewing to his line, or by inciting racial divide through his embrace of white supremacists. 

It is in his full-throated tweets about professional football players kneeling during the national anthem that Trump has exposed how serious the danger is to anyone who offends his sensibilities. Tuesday morning Trump tweeted, “Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!”

Forget for now that Trump misrepresents why the players are not standing (for those not aware, or equally misguided, they are protesting racial inequality and excessive force by police against people of color). By suggesting tax law and, by extension the Internal Revenue Service, should be used to punish those he disfavors, Trump is entertaining an abuse of executive power à la Richard Nixon who developed an enemies list and sought to have the IRS harass his detractors through audits. 

Trump further displayed his arrogance and compounded his ignorance and contempt for the law and a free press by suggesting earlier this week, during a photo opportunity with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “It is frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write.” He also proposed a review of NBC’s broadcasting license because it aired stories he didn’t like. 

Ditka Is Offensive: And dumb. NFL Hall of Fame player and coach Mike Ditka said Monday he was unaware of any racial oppression in America during the last 100 years. After mounds of criticism of his ignorance of Jim Crow laws to segregate schools, housing, water fountains, seats on Southern buses, along with major league baseball’s racial exclusion policy, he apologized Tuesday. He tried to ameliorate his remarks by saying they applied to the NFL, not society as a whole. 

But Ditka ignores the fact the NFL had no black players from 1934 until 1946 (there were a handful before 1934). Only when the Cleveland Rams sought to relocate to Los Angeles did the team integrate as a legal requirement to play in the publicly funded Los Angeles Coliseum. The rest of the league was slow to integrate, the Washington Redskins being the last to do so in 1962, the year after Ditka began his NFL career.

School Ties II: Dennis Prager is another of my elementary school through college classmates. A conservative blogger (, author and radio talk show host, Dennis has lately been chiding liberals for dominating the news media and drowning America “in an ocean of lies.” Among those lies are that “America is racist” and that “America oppresses its minorities.”

Let’s parse these opinions: Painting the media as leftist is a right wing canard, part of a campaign of disinformation. It might be true that CBS, NBC and ABC along with PBS lean to the left but Fox News and its affiliates are solidly right. And most local newscasts, especially those of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, lean right. 

One also cannot dispute that talk radio is dominated by conservative hosts. As for major newspapers, they lean left though The Wall Street Journal is a stalwart conservative voice in print. And for every Politico and HuffPost there is a Drudge Report and Breitbart News

As for entertainers, yes, many are liberal, but then there are the country western folks and some heavyweights in Hollywood like Clint Eastwood who are conservative. 

Most sports team owners are Republicans, as are many high profile white players. As for academia, most top rated liberal arts universities do espouse more progressive thought. They are countered by the many colleges founded and run by Christian groups. 

The suggestion that Americans are drowning in an ocean of lies because of the left ignores our liar-in-chief who repeatedly tells lies and repeats them even after they’ve been shown to be false. Moreover, Trump’s press secretaries steadfastly refuse to acknowledge their falsehood, preferring instead to explain away his exact words by implying he meant something else. 

As for whether America is racist, keep in mind that from its inception as a white European offshoot, America treated its native population as an inferior race. It imported blacks to be slaves as they too were considered to be inferior and sub human. 

The Civil War ended slavery but not the attitude toward blacks. Perhaps Dennis forgot about the high school book we read at Yeshivah of Flatbush about Jim Crow laws. Could he really believe blacks have been raised with equal opportunity in this country even after Supreme Court decisions forced an end to segregation? 

The law might require integrated schools but whites have chosen to mostly segregate their children in private schools throughout not just the South but the North as well. Study after study have shown that blacks with equal or better qualifications than whites are rejected for jobs in favor of white candidates. 

Let’s be clear. Racism also exists within minority communities. Light skinned blacks and hispanics are favored not just by whites but often by the minority communities. 

And let’s not forget that Native Americans have been systematically treated as lesser peoples. Treaty after treaty have been violated by whites. President Andrew Jackson even ignored a Supreme Court decision so he could forcibly evict the Cherokee Nation from its land in Tennessee and Georgia. (Is it any wonder Trump reveres Jackson? He placed a bust of Jackson in the Oval Office.) 

Do we also want to forget how America treated the Chinese in the 1800s and 20th century? And the Japanese during WWII? Or how southern Italians, eastern Europeans and Jews were discriminated against in immigration quotas? Oh, and so were the Irish when they first came here. America has a history of discrimination that continues to the present with Trump’s selective ban on Moslem entry to our shores.

As for Dennis’ blind eye toward current oppression of minorities, when was the last time a white person was stopped for a broken tail light and wound up shot dead by a policeman? When even black members of Congress are routinely stopped and questioned by capitol police, there is a problem. Is Dennis not aware of the talk black parents must have with their teenage kids about how they must behave around police, a talk few white parents need to have? 

Oppression does not just mean physical beatings. Minority schools receive fewer assets than white schools. Minorities do not get hired as often even when they are more qualified. Drug laws, especially marijuana arrests, and prison terms are disproportionally enforced against minorities. 

The only area where minorities are favored is sports  (except hockey), but even there inherent prejudice prevented minority representation for decades. 

Yes, we do not have concentration camps, but we have slumlords and prisons where we warehouse minorities.

Trust Me (Again) on This: Back on June 14, I started to write a blog with the following sentence: “It is again fun to watch the NY Yankees.” 

I abandoned writing anything more about the Yankees as I was mindful of past criticism of my preoccupation with the team. But events, including Wednesday night’s dramatic win over the Cleveland Indians, have proven me prescient. 

So it’s on to Houston amid hopes the magical post-season for the Yanks will continue.

Statues of Limitations: In a variation on what Jesus said, let he who is without sin be memorialized with a statue.

We would have pretty empty public squares and parks if we adhered to that bromide.

George Washington was a slave holder. So was Thomas Jefferson. Teddy Roosevelt’s ego prompted him to try to unseat his hand-picked successor, William Howard Taft. He split the Republican Party in 1912, assuring Woodrow Wilson’s election as president. Wilson was racist and less than enthusiastic about granting women the right to vote. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had to be pushed by wife Eleanor on civil rights while failing to enable immigration by Jews fleeing Europe terrorized by Nazi Germany. John F. Kennedy led us down the Vietnam rabbit hole. 

Okay, politicians are easy targets. A few weeks ago I suggested that “for every Confederate statue taken down, how about replacing it with a statue of a true hero, such as a doctor whose breakthrough discovery or surgical procedure has saved thousands if not millions of lives. Jonas Salk. Michael DeBakey. Albert Sabin. Denton Cooley.”

But what about the doctor credited with being the father of modern gynecology, J. Marion Sims? Seems he operated on black slaves without anesthesia or informed consent. In New York City and Columbia, SC, protestors want statues of Sims removed (

In other words, it is difficult to find unimpeachably deserving humans (even statues dedicated to animals are not immune to criticism, as Gail Collins of The New York Times noted:

Which brings us to the man of the moment past, Christopher Columbus. By many accounts Columbus was vain. A self-aggrandizer out to make his fortune.
Columbus was a product of his times. Which means he acquiesced to religious authorities and did not think it barbaric to invade settled land and forcibly impose Catholicism on the inhabitants. He was a tyrant as a governor. 

But should his statue be removed from public display? I think not. Columbus opened up the Age of Discovery, though there is little doubt, if not Columbus, someone else would have crossed the Atlantic to more fanfare than Leif Erickson did hundreds of years before. 

I am not unsympathetic to the desire to recognize Indigenous People of the Americas and Caribbean. They should be memorialized while statues of Columbus should include information about the impact he had on their cultures and lives. 

Robert E. Lee, on the other hand, is not a comparable figure to Columbus. Lee, and other Southern military figures and politicians, had a clear choice—fight for preservation of the Union, or lead an army of insurrection against the Union, the keystone purpose of which was to extend the brutally cruel and inhumane practice of slavery. Nothing Lee did before or after his fateful decision to choose the latter course of action can justify treason, much less his being honored by statues, the purpose of which is clearly meant to glorify the South.  

Romo Time: It’s a measure of how old I am and how young or unknowing some sports reporters and many fans are that I am befuddled by the football world going ga-ga over Tony Romo’s debut as a game analyst. As reported in The New York Times, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback in his first year as a CBS commentator is being hailed as a “play-calling whisperer” for his ability to prognosticate the next offensive play ( 

By far the best seer of the next play was Al DeRogatis. A former All-Pro defensive tackle for the New York Giants, DeRo would mesmerize listeners of WNEW-AM radio with his knowledge of the game and ability to predict the offense Charlie Conerly, Y.A. Tittle and their successors would run. Paired with play-by-play announcer Marty Glickman, DeRogatis enticed fans like me to muffle the sound of the television game broadcasts so we could simulcast their radio transmission.   

This less than fulfilling Giants season aside, one of the worst losses in team history was the day in 1966 NBC tapped DeRogatis as the color analyst for its national broadcasts. Giants games have never been the same.

As if Giants fans currently did not have enough team anguish, we were saddened this week by the death of Y.A. Tittle. To me, he was a seminal figure, perhaps because with his balding head he resembled my father, though Dad hardly possessed his athletic skills. 

To football fans he is most remembered by an iconic photo taken during one of his last games in 1964, when he was 38. Having been crushed by a 280-lb. Pittsburgh Steeler lineman, Tittle is pictured on his haunches, his shoulders drooped forward, his face in a daze as blood drips down his helmetless head. I remember seeing that play. 

For the prior three seasons Tittle had led the Giants to the NFL championship game, all losses. With our quarterback staring blankly at the grass before him, the future of the Giants was as bleak as it appears for this year’s 0-5 team (  

Playboy of the Western World: I never met the recently departed Hugh Hefner but I did stay at one of Playboy’s resort hotels. Okay, I’m exaggerating, a little. By the time I stayed at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva, Wis., the hotel had long passed its heyday as a pleasure spot. The only bunnies romping around and bopping their tails were the short, four-legged kind. 

My memory of the hotel is one of loss, specifically the loss of a business account that had yielded $100,000 each year. We lost that business because I am a lousy golfer.

My magazine in 1998 and 1999 co-produced a retail conference for Siemens Nixdorf (SN) in exchange for $100,000 annually in advertising. Each meeting ended with a golf tournament. I had successfully avoided playing in 1998 when the conference was at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. 

Though I begged off playing in 1999, SN’s national sales manager insisted I join his foursome. We’d be playing a scramble format, requiring each player to be responsible for at least one shot per hole.

Golf is most definitely not my game. I could not hit a decent shot all afternoon. I was frustrated. Siemens’ national sales manager was infuriated he did not win his own tournament. My magazine lost an account it took us 10 years to recover, and then only after the sales manager left Siemens.